LAS VEGAS — History has it that boxers have an expiration date.
Once boxers hit the age of 40, everything has already started to go downhill or the cart has crashed at the bottom of the hill. Manny Pacquiao is trying to reverse that trend, and the results are glowing.
On Saturday night in Las Vegas, in a pay-per-view fight, the Filipino boxing legend outclassed and dominated Adrian Broner in a lopsided victory. There were cards where ringside experts had him winning every single round of the fight. With a Showtime audience looking on, which has pulled HBO's crowd into its room over the past month, Pacquiao looked crisp with his punches and not at all like a guy with one foot out the door. He looked more like a guy re-entering the later stages of his life with a newly found explosive device contained in his fists.
It's one thing to knock out an over the hill and done with Lucas Matthysse, which Pacquiao did last summer, and quite another to take a hungry fighter like Broner and completely dismiss his chances at a victory. The signature blend of Pacquiao is mixing speed and power while hitting fighters at different angles, which keeps them off balance. Broner's counter-punching ability was no match for Pacquiao's versatile array of weapons.
One may say he beat Broner into delusion. After the fight, in speaking with Showtime's Jim Gray, Broner denied that he lost the fight and wasn't joking about it. For a guy who struggled to land eight punches in a round and only did enough to survive the fight without being scrapped off the canvas, they weren't tall or brash words; one would classify them under the crazy banner. No longer the embarrassingly proud fighter, Broner was entering a whole new category of annoying arrogance.
With Floyd Mayweather Jr., his own personal Muhammad Ali career-styled nemesis in attendance as well, Pacquiao made zero qualms about who he'd like to fight next. After the fight, Gray asked the inevitable question, and Pacquiao said he was ready for the undefeated champion once again.
If you had asked me a few months ago about a rematch between Pacquaio and Mayweather Jr., I would have smirked and taken your alcohol away. Today, it seems to be an endearing gamble. Mayweather Jr. can't seem to stay completely retired, is in good shape, and always willing to take up a challenge. Pacquiao has revitalized his career and looks hungrier than ever inside the ring.
It doesn't take a boxing expert to look at that fight on Saturday and see a different "Pac-Man" than the one who lost a controversial decision to Jeff Horn that nearly derailed his career. For a stretch of fights, Pacquiao seemed to have entered the passive-aggressive zone of fighters. He wouldn't finish opponents off, leaving the fate of the fight open to the judges, who have scorned him plenty in his career. Against Matthysse and Broner, Pacquiao left nothing to change.
Looking at the final 45 seconds of the seventh round in Saturday's fight, Pacquiao kicked it old school in the ring and was all over Broner. He was firing punches from several angles, hooks and jobs mixed in with uppercuts, catching Broner against the ropes. All the other guy could do was hold on for dear life, but once they were separated, Pacquiao was all over him again. He was pummeling him, out-landing and wearing him down. I am surprised Broner survived the round and the fight. Broner is going to be 30 years old in July, so he wasn't an old man in there trading with the ageless wonder.
There were analysts who had Broner winning the fight, and the odds in Vegas weren't completely in Pacquiao's corner heading into the fight. There was still some doubt about how much he could handle, but I would safely assume he quieted those internal ideas. It was a dominant performance, his best in years.
I'd like to see, and would pay for, a rematch between Pacquiao and Mayweather Jr. Let's remember that when they went at it back in 2015, Pacquiao was fighting with a shoulder injury due to an egregious oversight by his team in filling out paperwork before the fight. It wasn't an excuse, but a legit reason for him not being at 100 percent. You can't fire 400 punches in a fight if your shoulder hurts, and they will lack power if you do.
A rematch could be different. The performance on Saturday proved that Pacquiao has still got it and owns it in spades. What is "it?" The ability to attack, dominate, and seek knockouts in a boxing ring. If he comes forward like he did against Broner, and Mayweather Jr. can't elude the power and various angles coming at him, we could be in for a fight.
As for Broner, well, get used to second-rank fights. Your pay-per-view stage is finished.
Whether it happens or not, the possibility isn't based in lunacy any more. Rematch or not, Pacquiao still has a lot of fight left in him, and that's good for boxing.
Normally, boxers have an expiration date, and 40 years old means the meat in the fridge has gone bad and needs to be tossed out. For the moment, Pacquiao is pushing back against that notion with his fists and not merely with hope.